I read an interesting article this week on the Space Shuttle, which is about to be retired. It turns out that most the technology used on the fleet is for the most part, at least 25-40 years old, dating back to the 70s. And most people are aware of the fact that the entire computing power used to land man on the Moon was less than that in a Nintendo 64 Console.
The questions posed were, ‘really?’ and ‘surely you upgraded to the latest systems’ etc. And it turns out that NASA aren’t the only ones. Many Defence-related systems run on older versions of Windows, and Air Traffic Control at Heathrow was running on a DEC PDP-11 until not too long ago. It turns out that it’s all for the same reason. When a system is designed, it uses other systems that are tried and tested at the time. However, by the time these systems go into product and then use, it can be many years hence. So that all makes sense.
So with all this in mind, it begs the question, ‘why do vendors bail on older versions of software?’ Sure, if you don’t have customers using these systems, but if you do, and you know you do, why stop support? All it means is that you have customers that are using systems they can’t change, potentially being exposed to all manner of issues.
Vendors are not charities. But we also have a responsibility to our customers. And a decision made by a chap in chinos in another part of the world to end of life some software may have serious repercussions elsewhere. My suggestion is that some more thought is needed on version support than is done right now lest vendors miss supporting critical systems in the future.